Lord Strathcona’s Horse or the Canadian Rough Riders
When it was obvious the war was not going to be over by Christmas 1899, the call went out to the Colonial powers for help. Australians, New Zealanders, and Canadians volunteering to come and fight the Boers.
Lord Strathcona, offered to privately fund 500 odd men and officers, (known as ‘Rough Riders’) horses, and guns. The men were all handpicked for their ability to ride a horse and to be able to shoot and their reputation preceded them as many a British General was keen to have them join their Battalion.
Lord Strathcona, alias Donald Smith was born in Scotland in 1820 and moved to Canada when he was 16 working for the Hudson Bay Company. He later became Governor of the Company but is better remembered for his part in building the Canadian Pacific Railway, driving the final spike in.
The men were signed up on a 12-month contract, departing Canada March 1900 and returning February 1901. Colonel Sam Steele of the Northwest Mounted Police was in charge and with him as his bugler was a 14-year-old, Mickey McCormack, who had to get written permission from his mother to be able to join up plus have with him proof that he could play the bugle! He was interviewed for radio some 70 years later and to listen to the tape recording of the interview is goosebump material as one listens to this voice from the past.
In total 540 men and officers, 599 horses (200 dying on the trip out) 3 maxims, 1 pom-pom, 500 rounds/rifle, and 50,000 rounds each maxim was funded by Lord Strathcona – a generous offer indeed.
16 March 1900
Force embarked. 28 officers under Colonel Steele, 512 ranks,599 horses, 3 maxims, 1 pom-pom, 500 rounds per rifle, 50,000 rounds each maxim.
10 April 1900
The regiment landed Cape Town.
200 horses lost at sea.
Corps entrained for Newcastle.
Joined Gen. Buller’s N.F.F army – put into 3rd Mounted Brigade under Lord Dundonald & attached for a time to General Clery’s Division.
22 June 1900
Dundonald’s Cavalry Brigade entered Standerton unopposed
01 July 1900
1st skirmish at Waterval on Natal/Pretoria railway – suffered first losses.
05 July 1900
Wolwe Spruit Serg. Richardson got V.C (38 Strathcona’s Horse against 80 Boers – rescued wounded trooper 300 yards from the enemy).
150 Strathcona’s Horse escorted Buller to Heidelberg on way to Pretoria to meet Lord Roberts.
14 Aug. 1900
3 squadrons of Strathcona’s Horse despatched to Carolina, off the line of march, where after some fighting with about 40 armed Boers, they burned all the warlike stores left in the town & then rejoined the main column.
15 Aug. 1900
Buller reached Twyfelaar. Buller & French’s troops numbered 13,000
Boer Government at Machadodorp
21 Aug. 1900
Skirmish on Frischgewaad Ridge with Bethal Commando. 5th lancers, 18th Hussars & 21st battery & later 4 companies of 2nd G/High & 2 Leicester regiments sent in support.
27 Aug. 1900
Battle of Bergendal
31 Aug. 1900
Buller fell back to Helvetia after having been to Weltevreden and Nooitgedacht, preparatory to marching to Lydenburg
Roberts realized the mistake in keeping 3 Generals on the Pretoria to Delagoa bay railway line and ordered Genl Buller up north to Lydenburg and Genl French to Barberton.
01 Sept. 1900
Lord Roberts annexed the Transvaal under orders of Her Majesty’s Government. Kruger declares annexation “null and void”
Buller moved from Helvetia to Elandspruit on Crocodile river – iron bridge spanned the stream – Badfontein valley.
02 Sept. 1900
Strong post left at Schoeman’s Nek
Buller’s advance met with severe opposition from the enemy 2000 men who were holding a strong position at Badfontein (Wit Klip Pass) had 3 Long Toms, many Field & automatic pieces. Buller described the position as resembling Laings Nek, so Lord Roberts agreed with him to defer his attack until I could send him assistance
03 Sept. 1900
Ian Hamilton despatched from Belfast to turn the right flank of Boer force in front of Buller.bBuller waits at Badfontein, doing nothing.
04 Sept. 1900
Hamilton enters Dullstroom – enemy fighting rearguard all the way. Hamilton had no mounted troops so Brocklehurst sent from Buller’s column to join himBuller still waiting at Badfontein doing nothing.
The following members are buried at the British Cemetery in Badfontein.
Surname / Initials Rank Unit Place of Action Place of Death Cause
Logan A E H Sgt Strath. H Badfontein Badfontein 1900.09.04 KIA
West S H Pte Strath. H Badfontein Badfontein 1900.09.04 KIA
Jones A Pte Strath. H Badfontein Badfontein 1900.09.04 KIA
He and his troops went out to set up a cossack outpost. All fought until last round of both rifle and revolver ammunition was expended, refused to surrender & with his men died bravely in defense of their post.
Cruickshank O Pte Strath. H Badfontein Badfontein 1900.09.04 DOW
Became entangled with a strong force of the enemy returning to camp after failing to set up cossack post 7,000 yards to the right of the bivouac.
Brothers T J Sgt Strath. H Badfontein Badfontein 1900.09.04 DOW
Had no superior as a keen, brave & patriotic man, he was an only son and had come out of the Yukon, 600 miles to Skagway on the ice to join the regiment.
The graves of Sgt Logan and the rest of the men of the unit that died on the 4th of September 1900 is at the Badfontein Cemetary.
05 Sept. 1900
Ian Hamilton advanced to Weimershoek. Occupied Zwagershoek that evening (same day? Roberts despatches). Buller demonstrated strongly against the enemy’s left flank. 1st Bn Leicestershire Reg. & 1st Bn KRRC dragging the guns up a steep hill, whence a heavy rifle fire was brought to bear on the Boers.
Botha opens fire on camps of 7th Brigade & artillery with a Long Tom (east). Troops slightly withdrawn & 5” guns replied. Boers were seen working at sangars on a hill to right nearer camp. Buller sent Howard’s brigade – seized the hill and was not undisturbed during the night.
06 Sept. 1900
Boers move back to Lydenburg due to pressure on the left and right flanks – some to Krugers Post, but the majority with 2 Long Toms taking up a position at Paardeplaats 7 miles east of Lydenburg.
Dundonald’s mounted brigade & cavalry (Brocklehurst) attached to Ian Hamilton’s Force occupied Lydenburg
(Buller sent forward Dundonald at 11.30 to press into Lydenburg.)
Botha attacked almost immediately – Dundonald bivouacked at a neighboring farm.
Buller’s & Hamilton’s Infantry halting 5 miles in the rear.
07 Sept. 1900
Generals Buller and Hamilton enters Lydenburg.
Boers first sent an offensive heliograph message saying too lookout, then opened fire for the rest of the afternoon from Pardeplaatsl!
08 Sept. 1900
Genl Buller attacked the enemy at Paardeplaats, whence with their 6” guns, they were firing into the camp and town of Lydenburg. Boers held rocky ridge in front of Mauchberg 5 miles southeast of Paardeplaats.
Genl Buller 12,000 men 48 guns
Genl Botha 2,000 men 2 Long Toms and several field guns
09 Sept. 1900
Genl Buller occupied Mauchberg, the enemy being dislodged by 1st Bn KRRC supported by artillery fire.
Dundonald bivouacked on the Mauchberg
11 Sept. 1900
Genl Buller occupied junction of roads from east and south near Spitskop
12 Sept 1900
Genl Botha hands over command to Gen Ben Viljoen due to illness.
17 Sept. 1900
President Steyn slips through to Ohrigstad.
18 Sept. 1900
Lord Roberts moved his HQ to Nelspruit.
21 Sept. 1900
Lord Roberts returns to Pretoria from Nelspruit.
80 burghers surrendered to Genl Buller at Spitskop. Genl Buller, unaware of the need for haste, spent week withdrawing men from 3 posts between Lydenburg and Spitzkop and getting supplies.
26 Sept. 1900
Genl Buller occupied the MacMac river and eastern side of Burgher’s Pass. Pass held by Gravett’s small force.
Genl Buller could see dust and wagons of Botha’s column west of Pass. Generals Viljoen & Botha separate at this stage.
Genl Botha had ZAR Govt and state treasure with him.bivouacked at Geelhoutboom
27 Sept. 1900
Genl Dundonald occupied Pilgrim’s Rest. Genl Buller enters with no casualties. Well executed night march Col. Byng (SALH) obliged the enemy to retire hurriedly from Pilgrim’s Hill.
29 Sept. 1900
Spent getting transport up Pilgrim’s Hill (for a distance 2½ miles has an average gradient of 10°) Guns & wagons dragged up by hand!!!!!!!
30 Sept. 1900
Krugers Post reached and touch with Lyd. garrison regained. Boers who had been holding Krugers Post withdrew to Waterval Valley and so evaded our troops. Genl Brocklehurst sent by Howard from Lyd. before GenlBullers’s arrival.
Precautions against attack defective his bivouac shelled for last time by a Long Tom and 2 other guns killing 1 officer of Devons, 1 wounded 8 casualties SALH.
Major Henderson tried to capture the Long Tom that night with 200 of Genl Brocklehurst’s cavalry but it had been removed
02 Oct. 1900
Genl Buller returned to Lydenburg
06 Oct. 1900
Strathcona’s Horse to return to Canada
Genl Buller recalled to England
Natal Field Force of Genl Buller is disbanded.
20 January. 1901
The Strathcona’s Horse regiment re-embarked for Canada, via England;
15th February. 1901
They had the great honor to receive a Colour from King Edward, who also presented them with their medals.
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